Relationship stress

I couldn’t find an old thread, but I am sure there are a few.

All of my relationships have had the same old same old same old communication issues- obviously, I am the common factor.

It is currently taking its toll on our family - my gf/almost fiance and I are having constant and consistent stress pretty much 4 out of every 7 days.

We have been together for about 40 weekends, and I think 3 of them have not involved fighting.

Not physical stuff, but just constant bickering or worse.

She wants to ‘air her feelings’- and that means telling me how f’d up I am- I have friends and others to air those types of feelings to, but for whatever reason, she does not use hers for that purpose- so when she wants to talk about me, she does it TO me, which I think is juvenile and is pretty much just bashing me.

We are in therapy, and it always makes things better for a few days.

I don’t expect the problem to go away, I am just looking for some long relationship coping stratagies.


So, you would rather she talk you down to her friends and family than tell you what is bothering her? I would consider that disloyal, and break up with the person. If he has something to say, he should say it to me, not to other people. If he’s told me repeatedly, and the stress is killing him, then OK: go vent to a friend who you can trust to be discrete about it. But I pretty much try to make sure nothing ever gets to the point where that would be defensible.

It sounds like either you just prefer to leave things dysfunctional in order to avoid conflict; or she is verbally abusive in the manner she communicates these things. Or possibly both.

Counseling is good. But if you’re 37 to 3 onthe good weekends, I’m wondering why you think it’s a good idea to commit?

Another guess (keep in mind these are all just guesses) Do you tend to ignore soft and subtle communication? Do the people in your life eventually just give in and become abusive because it’s the only way you respond at all?

More input, please . . .

I do tend to be direct and honest, and I often miss circular and slow approaches to ‘uncomfortable’ subjects. I see them, but I am extremely irritated by them.

I don’t want her to trash talk me to everyone, but she needs to find a way to express her feelings without talking about what she views as my issues to me. She just wants to express her feelings- she doesn’t want me to respond. She just wants to tell me how wrong I am about whatever is going on… ALL the time.

Our good moments are worth the bad, I am just trying to figure out how to deal.

I take the dog for a walk. If that doesn’t work, then booze.

No dog.

Booze has historically been my way to deal, but I am trying to keep away from that as a temporary solution.

I just don’t know why, but what would normally just have been another day in the life yesterday has balled up inside me into rage and resentment, and I can’t figure out how to let it go.

And I want to! She is awesome in so many ways, and she is a great mother. I want to figure out how to make the good times happen more often, and the bad less, or to somehow find a way to minimize the stress I take away from the bad times.

Which is why I am asking for help from those who have made it many many years.

Thanks for any and all responses.

You’ve been together less than a year, you’ve spent most of that time fighting, and you’re in therapy together?

My response would have been “fuck this” a lot earlier. Either there’s something which compensates for the fights (it may even be the fights themselves), or you need therapy outside of the relationship issues too…

Again- the fights are mostly bickering.

The therapy started for my child, and we are part of the process as well, so it is the whole family in therapy.

Normally, I would have said ‘fuck this’ a long time ago myself, but I really am a better person with her around. Perhaps the fighting/bickering, etc, does have something to do with that.

And again- I have never felt the love and support and unconditional acceptance that I do in the good times from anyone but my mother and father, and her. I want that. I didn’t think I ever would, and I do, with her- but yeah- I only feel it about 40% of the time.

She really is the best thing that has ever happened to me. If I end the relationship, I end all the good that comes with it. I just want to find out how to minimize the pain that I can’t seem to let go of.

Talking doesn’t always help, although I think that a good therapist is always a good idea, if you can do it.

I read this and thought a couple of things. First, someone can be the best thing that ever happened to you without actually being great for you. It might be that she’s 40% compatible and your other relationships were closer to 20%. I’m not saying make the perfect the enemy of the good, but there is a sound like maybe you’re trying to make something work because you feel like it should rather than because it actually does and will?

Second, you say you feel the love and support and unconditional acceptance 40% of the time. But that doesn’t really sound like “unconditional” acceptance to me. That sounds like very conditional acceptance, doesn’t it?

I’m going to recommend a book, though the title will make it sound way more hostile than it is. How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, by John Van Epp. I’m not trying to say she is a jerk or you are a jerk or anyone is a jerk. I wish it had a different title, though honestly I picked it up from the library because the title amused me. The book is a good primer on how we can start assessing the way we relate to the people we love, and how we can best figure out what we are actually looking for.

It’s just a starting point, but it might give you some ideas.

In the meantime, your relationship sounds more stressful than soothing, and love, well, love shouldn’t shorten your life, you know?

Do you depend on her keeping on you about stuff in order to be a better person? If so, I see what you’re getting out of the relationship, but it’s not fair to your partner if she feels like she’s parenting you more than dating you. That would drive me crazy and become a huge source of stress. If that’s not it, what are the two of you bickering about? Is it the same argument over and over that never gets resolved, or do you feel like she’s critical of everything you do? Or are you just finding more and more topics on which you disagree?

I think that is very possible, jsg, and I don’t know that this will work- it was sort of a surprise to fall into this relationship in the first place, but we work so well in so many ways.

I think that I am probably the largest part of the problem, and I know that something has to change, but I just don’t know what it is, so, consequently, I have no idea how to begin the change.

If she isn’t the one, I don’t expect there to be another for many, many, many years…

Vihaga- I think that her ways of resolving issues conflict directly with mine, really- and I don’t know how to solve this, as the issue doesn’t seem to me to be something I can solve, as it is a behavior of hers which I simply cannot change. Thus the request for aid in dealing with stress.

She isn’t parenting me… It is just that what she calls ‘talking’ that she wants me to hear out sounds like abuse and criticism to me, but she states it isn’t meant to be, and she doesn’t want it to affect my actions or have any response at all from me- she just wants to vent.

Oh, and no- I don’t depend on her to police me to make me better- it is just that when I am around her I tend to have healthier behaviors- less drinking, better eating, more consistent schedule for my child, cooking at home, etc, etc…

You sound like me 17 years ago, except I didn’t have a child.

I still got married, and still am married, however the bickering never really stopped. I know for a fact that our two divergent views on acceptable alcohol consumption were, and still are, the crux of just about every disagreement. Like you, I tried to stay away from that as a temporary solution. And I really did take the dog for walks when I felt like just having a few beers instead.

My wife grew up in a family where someone might have a glass of wine with Christmas dinner. I grew up in a family where it was party-central and booze was a food group. I curtailed my consumption for many years and toed the line. I still do to a certain degree, but every once in a while I manage to fall off the wagon and this starts the next couple of days of bickering.

I’m willing to bet you’re in a similar position. If not, I apologize.

You have to give us some examples here. There are any number of things that could be going on here.

A few things that I will say…she is not going to change. People in general do not change. You can’t guilt, shame, harass, pout or anger her into changing. The only thing here that is under control is how you are reacting. If you want this relationship to work, you are going to need to find a way to react that works better than what you have now.

Another thing to remember…people have reasons for why they do what they do. She is acting this way for a reason. Perhaps it was how she was brought up to address problems. Perhaps it makes perfect sense to her and she genuinely thinks she is doing the right thing. Perhaps she’s just a little selfish in this one particular way. The point is, she almost certainly thinks that she is acting rationally. If you can try to understand where she is coming from, you might be better able to process it.

In general, I find when people are criticizing others, what they are really doing is airing their fears about themselves. If she calls you irresponsible, it’s probably because she fears that she is irresponsible. Try not to take this stuff personally, and look for ways to be supportive and reassuring.

And some people just have different confrontation styles- she seems like a "talk it out’ type while you honestly seem kind of avoiding. It can be very stressful when someone’s conflict style is different than yours. You don’t understand why she is “always bringing stuff up” and she doesn’t understand why you won’t help her resolve things. Your therapist should hopefully be able to propose some ideas for resolving conflicts that can work for both of you.

Short of that, all you can really do is train yourself not to get defensive, don’t take it personally, figure it’s just a quirk of hers.

So, does she recognize this as a problem? Being constantly critical of your partner, is, IMHO, a huge problem. The way I see it, either she needs to tell you what she wants you to change so she can get off your case, or if it isn’t anything specific, she needs to learn that you can’t nit-pick every little thing your partner does.

For everything I actually criticize my husband about, I let about 20 things go. Because they aren’t important, and he does his best, and I know that. He doesn’t nag or criticize me, either. We’ve been together 11 years, and bicker once or twice a year. If we were arguing every weekend, no way would staying be worth it to me. The good needs to outweigh the bad, by a lot.

What does your therapist say? What does your GF say when you broach the subject?

The worst ones, which last longest, have indeed been about alcohol consumption.

And not even ‘falling off the wagon’- just discussing the issue can cause some really heated conversation.

But yeah- you are describing her (and me) pretty well.

But that I don’t consider a problem, really, as that is pretty rare.

It is the ‘normal’ criticism/listening/whatever that happens nearly daily that I can’t deal with, and can’t help bickering back instead of just letting it roll off my back…

I hear ya brother. The worst words in the world to me are “can we talk?” Because I know what’s coming… right at me.

I’ve been playing this game for 17 years. It’s not a lot of fun and if I had to do it over, I would have cut my losses and moved on before marriage. But we already lived together, and I didn’t want to feel like a quitter. If I could go back in time, I would gladly feel like a quitter for a short period.

But, it could be a lot worse. We’re still together and have two fine children. There are plenty of people a lot worse off than I.

Good luck to you.

This is your problem.

When she has a problem with you, she tells you (communicating). When you have a problem with her, you go and tell your friends about it (not communicating). If you tell your friends, she’ll never know there’s a problem and keep doing it. Then you’ll end up resenting her for doing it and things will get worse and worse.

She does recognize this is a problem. She understands that quite a lot of it is her reacting to me as if I were any number of untrustworthy men in her life, and it is something she wants to work on-

However, that being said, I do agree that you cannot ever really expect anyone else to change- they may, rarely, but it shouldn’t be planned on. Again, this is why I am looking for ways to reduce my own stress load, and try not to hold on to the stuff I am feeling reactionary to…

I would also like to hear some examples.

Also, are you sure she doesn’t want you to change? In other words, she says she doesn’t want you to change, but why would she vent to you about you otherwise? My impression is that she either doesn’t mean what she’s saying about not wanting things to change or that she’s a fairly abusive individual. Neither is fair to you.

I take it the kid(s) are from a previous relationship, or are you the dad?

And what, specifically, does she dislike? You said it’s the alcohol consumption - why? Is she concerned you have a drinking problem or that you will develop one? Are you unable to help her when she needs it because of it?

Hmmmm- examples are difficult because I try my best to ignore it…

She doesn’t want me to change, because the things she is saying aren’t actually things I am doing wrong. They are things that she perceives that I am doing wrong, but in most cases, that I am not actually doing- although bedtime is one issue. Mostly she has trust issues, and she is mostly upset if I don’t listen to her express her trust issues about things she is worried I will do, or about how she feels if I am tired and want to go to bed earlier than her, as that takes time away from her, etc.
She also has a very very hectic job, which I think she should quit, but as we are not married, that would cause insurance issues. So she has quite a bit of stress that leaks over from the job, although those things are fun to listen to, sometimes the stress from her job leaks over to become upset with me.

I drink very little these days, but have in the past been a very very active drinker, and a self-described alcoholic. I did not expect to be able to moderate my alcohol intake, as it had become a sort of institutionalized habit with me to self-medicate with (as Leffan said above) alcohol as a food group.

I have always been extremely functional as a heavy drinker, though- so I wasn’t particularly worried about it.

However, it was stunningly easy to moderate and/or do without alcohol with her to go home to. We have a glass or two of wine every few days now, if that.

Simply stopping 99% of my alcohol intake has caused me to gradually lose about 40 pounds over the course of our relationship.

The child is mine. The mother was and still is a heavy drug user alcoholic with mental problems who hasn’t seen her in nearly two years now, and I have full legal and physical custody and have since 2006.